I’ve collected all the posts
relating to this campaign on one page,
so you might want to go straight there
(everything in this post is repeated there)
and get the full story, along with various cultural quips
along with assorted asides of tangental relevance
I couldn’t resist at the time.
Here’s the link again.
Friday afternoon, I’m reading Hilary Mantel‘s ‘Wolf Hall‘. Against his wishes, Henry VIII is still married to his first wife. Churchman Hugh Latimer has just been released; he’s been in custody in Lambeth Palace for his reforming stance. Thomas Cromwell asks him how he’s been looked after. “Bare walls my library,” he replies. I saw some not often seen bare walls in my local library on Saturday.
Stony Stratford Library is under threat of closure. It’s just one of the hundreds of public libraries up and down the UK under such threat, but the response of the citizens of the town has been heartening, and the response of the rest of the world to the Friends of Stony Stratford Library’s ‘Wot no books’ campaign has, frankly, amazed us all. It makes you proud to be a small part of it, ennobled even. Apparently it’s gone viral on Twitter – now there’s phrase I never thought I’d use – and lauded for the creative style of the protest.
Basically, we’ve borrowed all the books; all the books that can be borrowed; for a couple of days the shelves are bare (and dusted). (Librarians will also recognise the value of this exercise as community assisted stocktaking.) It remains to be seen, of course, whether this will have any effect in changing the minds of the Lib-Dem councillors of Milton Keynes, though I would hope they would have to be extremely thick-skinned to maintain their current position.
The story is well told in essence in a piece by Maev Kennedy in the Guardian Online headlined, ‘Library clears its shelves in protest at closure threat’ – “Users urged to take out full allowance of library books in campaign to keep Stony Stratford branch open”. The Indy did a similar piece and even put it on their home news page for a while. If you want to see how things developed and mushroomed, and what it has meant to the Stony community, you can peruse the campaign’s own Facebook site and find lots of other links.
Jeremy Gill puts it nicely in a post to the campaign’s Facebook wall:
“In a hundred years time, the history books will be saying ‘Stony Stratford – home of the library with no books story’ – it’s not Cock & Bull”.
(Stony claims the origin of the phrase ‘Cock and Bull story’ from two of its old – but still in business – coaching inns.)
For what it’s worth, as well as filling my library card along with over a thousand other borrowers, I’m gratifyingly surprised at the effect of a personal contribution, which stemmed from a semi-serious (or half-joking) off-hand remark made at, it would appear, just the right time. I note this here because I want to make sure that I’ve got it documented that, apart from taking home my books (a heavy load) and signing the petition, that was the sum total of what I did. All the hard campaigning work was done – against a backdrop of reasoned resistance established early by the Town Council – by the long running Friends of Stony Stratford Library group, who took up my idea and flew with it. And how; to get a couple of paragraphs in the local free sheets was the aim, rather than the spectacular execution you can see in the photos.
It all goes back to my days at university in a time, long ago, when Rag Weeks were pretty much the only impact students had on the local populace – like that annoying bunch in the jeep in Antonioni’s film of the ’60s, ‘Blowup‘. We (or at least, our lot) actually called them Drag Weeks (it was a time of great change), but what had stayed with me was the drink-a-pub-dry stunt. These days it would be called a flash mob, I guess. A pub would be selected in secret and the hordes would descend in an attempt to drink it dry. As a librarian (albeit now retired) I’ve always quite fancied the idea of the same kind of end result applied to the intoxicant potentially to be found in books and literature – no shelfsitters. And so it went. I await with glee the stories to be told when the books are returned with tales of what has been learnt or revealed as a result of people taking books they wouldn’t normally have taken out, here taken out as objects just to make up their 15. Of course the shelving next week is gonna be horrendous.
I started off with a literary reference; I’ll close with a couple more. There’s been a comment on Twitter to effect that the idea for ‘Wot no books‘ came from the first of Ian Sansom’s ‘Mobile library’ series of humourous crime novels, ‘The case of the missing books‘ (2006). I have read it, but not so. There the community steals the books and hides them from the newly appointed mobile librarian. But there is another humourous novel about a threatened library closure that I found funnier – Mat Coward’s ‘Open and closed‘ (2006). It’s listed in the MK Libraries catalogue if you fancy reading it. This from the blurb on the Fantastic Fiction website:
There’s a body in the library. The Bath Street public library in Cowden, London, that is. The borough council wants to close it as part of a “rationalization” package. So one autumn night, militant library-lovers enter the building and begin unfurling their banners and bedrolls. The mood is full of hope and solidarity-at least, until a garroted corpse is found sitting in the librarian’s office.
It hasn’t come to that yet.
There’s a bit more about the action in a later post.